Max Schulz has just made me glad I'm not a teen-ager any more. He suffered through an incident recently that has Discrimination Against Teens written all over it.
Max is a junior at Gonzaga High School near Capitol Hill, but he lives in the upper reaches of Northwest. That makes him a daily bus and subway commuter.
One recent day, he left school at about 3:40 p.m., bought a Farecard at nearby Union Station and headed for the turnstiles. Only then did a Gonzaga buddy ask Max how he thought he'd do on the next day's math test.
On went Ye Olde Light Bulb. Max had left his algebra textbook in his locker. So it was back to Gonzaga, find book, return to Union Station, enter system, get bus transfer that's plainly stamped "4:10 p.m." and hop aboard Grosvenor-bound train.
But as Max tried to leave the system at Gallery Place, the turnstile wouldn't let him. It told him to "SEE ATTENDANT." He did. The kiosk attendant ran Max's Farecard through a succession of testing machines. Finally, the attendant said:
"Your [magnetic] strip says you've been in the system since 1:30 this afternoon."
Max said that couldn't be right; it had been more like 10 minutes.
"Code's never wrong. You been in the system since 1:30 this afternoon," the attendant said.
Max tried to show the man his transfer. He wouldn't look. Max told the man that he could call Gonzaga and drum up dozens of witnesses who had seen Max on campus after 1:30. The attendant declined again.
As Max continued to protest, the attendant finally waved him through the handicapped gate, with this fond farewell: "Don't try a trick like this again. Liars will not be tolerated any further."
First of all, the attendant was out to lunch when he said that the magnetic code on a card is never wrong. Marilyn Dicus of Metro public affairs confirms that "it can be . . . .It doesn't happen often, but it can happen." It isn't clear why it happened on this particular day, or at this particular time, but it's hardly a first -- as the attendant surely must have known.
Second, the attendant was dead wrong not to give Max courteous treatment. This is a subway system, buddy, not Lorton.
Third, the attendant has no business lecturing Max -- or anybody else -- about truthfulness. If an attendant suspects that a crime has been committed, he can call a cop. But otherwise, there's no reason to use words like "trick" or "liar."
Fourth, Metro regulars know that the attendant would have waved an older rider through the handicapped gate without a second thought. But he saw a chance to throw his weight around, with a teen-ager the victim. That's not only unfair. It's cowardly.
If the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Service and the Good Lord all cooperate, this should be the day by which we have all received our blank tax forms and our W-2s. But that means the fun has only just begun.
If you're like many of us, you would have an easier time standing on your head than you'd have filling out your Form 1040. Maybe next year they'll write the directions in English. But this year, they're in Tax-ese -- again.
But help is available from a nonprofit group called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. Working with the D.C. Public Library, VITA will offer free federal tax assistance to any D.C. taxpayer.
The help will be offered every weekend from now until April 13. Saturday hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday hours are 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The location is the Martin Luther King Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW. For further information, call 727-1221.
Martin Buxbaum says he was chewing the fat at a meeting of the Bethesda Kiwanis Club, and the subject turned to taxes. One fat-chewer was an economist, so Bux asked him how much of everyone's income the economist thought a so-called "flat tax" would consume.
"About 19 percent," came the reply.
Indignant, Bux rose from his seat and said loudly, "Even God doesn't ask for more than 10."
No names on this one, but the coach in question knows who he is. So does "Your Reliable Informant in Gaithersburg."
The coach is in charge of the boys' varsity basketball team at a Montgomery County high school. The team captain went to see him in his office. During a discussion of personnel, the captain mentioned to the coach that one of the starting forwards "sure had quite a case of charisma."
"Don't worry about it," the coach replied. "He'll be over it by the time we play Wootton."